Role of social media in public debate

Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 00:00

A chara, — David Adams (“Much internet journalism at level equivalent to Stone Age”, Opinion Analysis, January 3rd) is yet another  social media “expert” lecturing from the comfort of his mainstream media couch but with little or no social media experience of his own. Mr Adams’s ignorance of Twitter is highlighted by his simplistic analysis, which boils down to celebrities tweeting about their breakfasts, twitter spelling and, of course, bullying.

I can assure Mr Adams that if I wrote an analysis of the mainstream media based on tabloid stories about celebrities, news stories from the now-defunct News of the World or the latest libel cases in our courts, I could give him a very negative analysis of the mainstream media.

Twitter can break news stories, give urgent local advice, encourage discussion on a wide range of topics and be simply informative. Ironically, it is also beneficial in highlighting and circulating articles from the mainstream media.

Perhaps those shouting the loudest criticism of the social media are those who feel most threatened. They should take comfort in the fact that manuscript scribes once felt threatened by printing presses. – Is mise,

EF FANNING,

Whitehall Road,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – As one who has often disagreed with him in the past, I congratulate John Waters on his article of January 4th (“Venomous and toxic social media out of control”, Opinion Analysis).

Mr Waters is right when he says that “bullyboy social media culture” gives unlimited licence to “anonymous agents to spew abuse and defamatory comments about others”.

The excuse usually given by the defenders of this arrogance-will-get-you-everywhere attitude is that if some people do not like the heat they should get out of the kitchen.

That just proves Mr Waters even more right when he says that social media “can be profoundly restrictive of free speech” and, because it is so intimidatory, often amounts to “a highly effective instrument of censorship”.

That raises the issue of how much State regulation is appropriate in the operation of social media. We saw the damage done to our economy, and the institutions of our democracy, when arrogance and anarchy were given free rein in the financial services industry. Do we want the same to happen as a result of lack of some basic regulation of the social media? – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY LEAVY,

Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton,

Dublin 13.